Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Woke Doug Duncan calls out Montgomery County cartel

Former Montgomery County Executive and Rockville mayor Douglas M. Duncan is the first prominent political figure to acknowledge, and call out, the political cartel that has seized control of the County over the last two decades. Over that same period since they first won a majority of the seats on the County Council in 2002 - and now control every single seat in 2019, the County has plunged to rock bottom in all relevant regional economic development categories. As a result of their high-tax and anti-business policies, the County economy has become moribund, the ultra-wealthy have fled in great numbers to lower-tax jurisdictions, and the County has failed to attract a major corporate headquarters in over twenty years. While high profile voices like The Washington Post, Washington Business Journal and Sage Policy Group have finally joined me in declaring Montgomery County moribund, no prominent figure has previously identified that a political cabal has seized control of the local Democratic party and County government. Until now.

A day after the County's elected officials held another clueless meeting on the stagnant County economy, repeating the same mantras and problems without endorsing actual solutions we know will solve them, it's worth examining what Doug Duncan recently said regarding the cartel. One of the key reasons we are struggling to attract jobs and economic growth is that cartel-controlled officials are anti-highway and anti-car. That is because the most dominant players in the cartel are developers who specialize in developments that require traffic congestion to remain high, in order to justify their density. So it's not surprising that the County Council's predictable opposition to Gov. Larry Hogan's Express Lanes plan for the Beltway and I-270 frustrated a common-sense leader like Duncan.

"You don't often see a governor saying, 'I want to put billions of dollars into your infrastructure,'" Duncan told the Post. "For Montgomery County to say no right off the bat without saying let's look at this is the result of who's controlling the Democratic Party now."

Those elected officials have not only blocked and canceled critical highway projects, but have also pursued the anti-business course that their developer sugar daddies in the cartel have demanded behind closed doors. Developers want the valuable land in Rock Spring and along I-270 where existing office parks could be used to lure defense, aerospace and tech firms that need large, secure campuses. They want those office zones to remain vacant and struggling, so that they can acquire the land and redevelop it as residential. This is why you see the Council continuing to refuse to take the steps needed to turn the economy around, and to block economic growth.

Duncan addressed that, too, in his remarks to the Post. He told the newspaper "the County's Democratic leadership of 'no-growthers' is out of step with residents."

This is a breakthrough in the public debate. Duncan is as liberal a Democrat as they come, but he's also remembered for being pro-business while in office until he ran for governor in 2006. Duncan lost his bid to return as County Executive in 2014, when the cartel threw its weight behind incumbent Ike Leggett. He may now wish he had run in 2018, when pro-business candidate David Blair lost to Marc Elrich by a literal whisker in the Democratic primary. If the County remains on this road to bankruptcy, we likely haven't heard the last of Duncan and Blair in the political arena.

To be first to acknowledge the local Democratic Party and our elected offices have indeed been hijacked by a cartel, cabal or whatever you want to call it, is indeed a shot across the bow by Duncan. These words need to be heard and taken seriously, if we are to resolve this fiscal crisis, and become the major economic development player we once were in the region.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Gaithersburg named the top horror movie tourism city in America

Gaithersburg is more horrifying than Haddonfield. Creepier than Camp Crystal Lake. Scarier than Sidewinder. Of course, those places don't exist in reality. But Gaithersburg just beat all of the real-life towns that served as their stand-ins on the big screen. The Travel, a vacation tourism website, just published a list of the Top 10 Horror Movie Tourism Cities in America - and Gaithersburg topped it at Number One!

What "possessed" The Travel to pick Gaithersburg? Seneca Creek State Park, where a large part of low-budget horror blockbuster The Blair Witch Project was filmed in the late 1990s. They recommend horror fans have a park ranger direct them to locations from the film, or just explore by themselves. But, "just make sure to keep an eye out for the Blair Witch," writer Melissa Binns warns.

The towns Gaithersburg finished atop are among the most iconic in horror movie locations. Los Angeles (Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street), Government Camp in Oregon (where Jack Nicholson's axe is on-display at the Overwatch Hotel, er, Timberline Lodge from The Shining), the Lone Star State's Bastrop ("Look what your brother did to that door!!!), Jason Voorhees' favorite lake haunt in New Jersey, and the Pennsylvania home of the Dawn of the Dead's Monroeville Mall.

Maybe the editors toured Lakeforest before compiling the list! We'll have to check in with Gaithersburg hotels in a few weeks to see if business is up, with this new Gaithersburg claim to fame. Perhaps Mayor Jud Ashman can now reel in Stephen King for the next Gaithersburg Book Festival - he and lots of other Americans are now sure to want to learn what's so scary about Gaithersburg.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Rio Lakefront $30 million upgrade ready for summer in Gaithersburg

The transformation of the waterfront at Rio Lakefront in Gaithersburg is nearly complete. A new stage with sail-themed canopy will now be the center of attention for most entertainment events at the Peterson Cos. property. The new boardwalk is nearing completion, and a grassy area in front of the stage is already in place.
Among other improvements are new railings that provide a less-obstructed view of the water. That will especially be noticed on the restaurant patios like this one at Silver Diner, opening in August, when you are seated at tables with a lower viewing position.
Events will include the usual Saturday night concerts, but also weekly Thursday lunchtime concerts on the stage, and a monthly karaoke event hosted by local radio and television personality Tommy McFly... Karaoke will begin this Friday night, June 28, 2019 at 7:30, and continue monthly through August 30. Local and high school bands will get a chance for exposure at a separate concert series, Nando's Fiery Friday Night Concerts on the boardwalk stage. For kids, there is the Carousel Kids series at the Carousel every other Wednesday morning at 10:30 AM. For a full event schedule, visit the official Rio Lakefront website.
Meanwhile, check out my reports on the new Dave & Buster's opening July 1, the fully-renovated AMC Dine-In Rio Cinemas 18 theater, and the aforementioned Silver Diner.

Friday, June 21, 2019

355 Bus Rapid Transit open houses June 26 & 27

What's a $10 billion boondoggle with branding that brings to mind a creepy man wearing a trenchcoat? Montgomery County's proposed $10 billion Bus Rapid Transit network, devised with consulting help from Communist Chinese officials, and branded as "Flash," despite moving only one mile every four minutes. The public will have an opportunity to learn more about the MD 355 BRT route proposed to run between Clarksburg and the Bethesda Metro station at two open houses next week.

Open House #1 will be held Wednesday, June 26, 2019 from 6:00-8:00 PM at the Activity Center at Bohrer Park, located at 506 S. Frederick Avenue in Gaithersburg. The second Open House will be held the next evening, Thursday, June 27 from 6:00-8:00 PM in the Wisconsin Multipurpose Room at the B-CC Regional Services Center, located at 4805 Edgemoor Lane in downtown Bethesda.

You'll notice several key factoids are not emphasized to the public about this particular BRT proposal.

First, if dedicated lanes are utilized, the vehicle capacity of already-jammed MD 355 will be slashed by 33%. If you know that BRT advocates' most-optimistic number for the percent of people who will "get out of their cars" (as the globalists like to say) is only 16% in the best-case scenario, in a "flash" you can quickly calculate that the BRT will have the effect of severely-worsening rush hour traffic - and increasing exhaust emissions from additional idling in traffic jams.

Second, speaking of fumes, these buses run on diesel fuel. Unlike the futuristic subways on wheels depicted in glossy promotional materials you paid for, the buses look just like Metrobuses. That was exposed in one of the most cringeworthy PR disasters of the BRT push, when the actual bus was displayed at the County Fair, and it looked like a junky Metrobus.

Third, the 355 route - like Route 29 and Georgia Avenue BRT lines - will require demolition of thousands of residential and commercial properties between Clarksburg and Bethesda. Watch this very closely, and keep track if all of the same activists who are raging against 37 potential home demolitions for Beltway Express Lanes yell and scream about thousands of demolitions for BRT. I expect to see heartfelt columns from John Kelly denouncing the greedy developers and their puppets on the County Council and Planning Board, and extensive local news coverage of anti-highway folks jumping up and down and lighting their hair on fire to stop BRT! And like the anti-Express Lane and anti-M83-Highway campaigns, shadow-funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, of course.

In the fine print, you'll notice the County is "still studying" the "property impacts" of BRT. LOL.

Fourth, the only thing the Flash does fast is eat up taxpayer money. 355 "Flash" will take a turtle-like 87.2 minutes to travel the 21.8 miles from Clarksburg to the Bethesda Metro station. And then you're not even at work, because you still have to transfer to Metro to reach where the actual jobs are in the District or Northern Virginia. Better pack a Red Bull, my friend.

It's a simple fact that only transit projects that can beat automobile travel times will get ridership, meaning "Flash" is dead-on-arrival. This, of course, is why the War-On-Cars County Council is trying everything to increase auto commuting times, proposing nuclear options ranging from changing the speed limit to 25 MPH along 355, reducing the width of lanes to 10' and seizing one lane in each direction for the bus.

But that still won't create ridership, or "get people out of their cars." Why? Because increasing your auto commute by another 34 minutes still won't take as long as the average one-way transit commute of two hours. So you'll just end up with empty buses running past heavier traffic congestion and thicker clouds of exhaust from idling vehicles. Heckuva job, Brownie!

Why would County officials press ahead anyway, knowing all this? Because BRT isn't meant to improve travel or be a success. It's simply meant to allow urban-density development along all the routes it travels, by magically qualifying them for "transit-oriented development" by being on a "rapid transit line." The Council's developer sugar daddies couldn't be more pleased.

Finally, there's no demand for bus service on 355. I'm the only journalist to conduct spot checks on the $1 million Ride On Extra service between Shady Grove and Medical Center Metro stations. I've yet to find any significant ridership even during rush hour on this line. During peak evening rush hour, I counted one person riding the Ride On Extra in each direction on 355 at Edmonston Drive. During another peak evening rush hour, a Ride On Extra departed Shady Grove Metro station with no passengers on board.

This is a boondoggle of astronomical proportions. For a fraction of the cost of BRT, we could build the M-83 Highway, the long-delayed new Potomac River crossing, the Rockville Freeway between Montrose Road and the ICC, and the equally-long-delayed Georgia Avenue-Norbeck Road interchange. Each one of the aforementioned highways would carry more commuters each day than the entire $10 billion BRT network. And the Potomac River crossing, like I-270 and Beltway Express Lanes, could be built at virtually no cost to taxpayers by private firms that would earn back their investment through tolls on those new lanes and roadways.

In an economically-moribund county where the government's debt - if it were a government department - would be the third-largest department in the County government, highways make the most sense: moving the most people for the lowest cost of any mode of transportation.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Bank robbery in Gaithersburg (Video)

Montgomery County police are investigating the June 8 robbery of TD Bank in Gaithersburg by an unmasked man. The suspect allegedly approached a teller at the branch located at 15830 Shady Grove Road around 1:28 PM that day, passed a note, and declared a robbery was taking place.

Implying he had a weapon, the alleged robber demanded cash, detectives say. He fled with an undisclosed amount of cash given to him by the teller.

Police have released a video of the robbery. Anyone with information about the suspect or this bank robbery is asked to contact the Montgomery County Department of Police – Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5100.  To be eligible for a reward, tipsters may call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).  Crime Solvers will pay a cash reward of up to $10,000 for information provided to them that leads to the arrest and/or indictment of this suspect.  Tipsters will remain anonymous.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Taco Daddy for sale in Gaithersburg

Taco Daddy Cantina & Tequila Bar in Gaithersburg, in addition to having arguably the best restaurant name in Montgomery County, is also for sale. The 4900 SF business at 555 Quince Orchard Road is described by the owner as a "cash cow," and would be a turnkey business opportunity for the buyer.

All assets and inventory will convey with the sale of the restaurant, which has a total revenue of $1.2 million, and a 15-year lease at its current location, which is right off I-270. The asking price is $399,000. Taco Daddy remains fully open for business.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Contents of Smokehill BBQ in Damascus to be auctioned off today

Smokehill BBQ has "lost its lease" at 9870 Main Street in Damascus, according to an auction announcement online. Starting at 11:00 AM this morning, June 18, 2019, the contents of the restaurant will be auctioned off.

Items available for bid include a smoker (of course), barstools, a kegerator, a two-door refrigerator and a television. The restaurant opened three-and-a-half years ago, and the owners say they have decided to close to spend more time with family. "We apologize for the abrupt nature of our closing," they wrote in a Facebook post announcing the closure, "but we feel it was the right thing to do for our family."